Scouting The Free Agent Market: Scott Hairston

Season Review: Joe Girardi & Coaching Staff
Season Review: The Front Office
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Regardless of how the Yankees replace Nick Swisher in right field this winter, they’re going to need to bring in a right-handed outfield bat. Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson are both left-handed and you can make a case either guy needs a platoon partner, plus the club has to replace some of the righty power they’re losing as Alex Rodriguez ages and Swisher (and potentially Russell Martin) heads elsewhere.

About two weeks ago we learned the Yankees “continue to have conversations” with free agent outfielder Scott Hairston, the younger brother of former Yankee Jerry Hairston Jr. The 32-year-old Scott is coming off a career year with the Mets (.263/.299/.504, 118 wRC+) and is well-known for his ability to pound left-handed pitching. Just ask Gio Gonzalez or Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee or Hamels again, they’ll tell you. Let’s see if Jerry’s little brother is a fit for the outfield-needy Yankees.

The Pros

  • Hairston will be paid to hit lefties, and he does it very well. He produced a .286/.317/.550 (135 wRC+) batting line against southpaws this year and a .263/.308/.464 (110 wRC+) batting line over the last three years.
  • Although he is known as a platoon player, Hairston can at least hold his own against righties. He hit .239/.281/.457 (100 wRC+) against them this year and .218/.289/.420 (96 wRC+) over the last three years. You can live with that from a fourth outfielder.
  • Hairston came up as an infielder but has since moved to the outfield full time, and the various metrics rate him as an average defender in left and a tick below (but still playable in a pinch) in center.
  • It’s not a big part of his game, but Hairston can steal the occasional base. He swiped eight bags in ten tries this year and 15 in 19 tries over the last three years. He’s also about average when it comes to taking the extra base.
  • Hairston obviously has some experience playing in New York given his two years with the Mets, plus they did not make him a qualifying offer. He won’t require draft pick compensation to sign.

The Cons

  • If he doesn’t get a hit, he’s not going to reach base. Hairston is a hacker who walked in just 4.8% of his plate appearances this year and 6.9% over the last three years. He’s consistently swung at ~30% of the pitches seen outside of the strike zone, leading to a below-average strikeout rate (21.2% since 2010).
  • Hairston has been on the DL seven times since making his debut in 2004, including once a year from 2005 through 2011. Most of the injuries were various strains (oblique, hamstring, quad, etc.), but he did have some more serious shoulder problems earlier in his career. He did avoid injury this year, however.
  • He’s limited to left because he can’t throw to save his life — this little rainbow is about the best you’re going to get from his arm. Maybe the early-career shoulder problems are to blame. Hairston only has about 446.1 career innings in right field.

Jonny Gomes did Hairston a favor by signing a two-year, $10M contract with the Red Sox and setting the market for right-handed platoon outfielders. The Yankees are looking to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014, so therefore any multi-year contract has to be viewed through the prism of average annual value and its impact on next year’s payroll limit. Assuming he signs a contract similar to Gomes, Hairston will be a very pricy fourth outfielder at $4-5M annually.

I liked the younger Hairston quite a bit two years ago, when the Yankees opted to instead sign Andruw Jones to serve as their left-handed pitching masher. Jones worked out wonderfully in 2011 but didn’t help at all this season. We’ve gathered some more data on Hairston these last two years and I do worry quite a bit about his complete reliance on power. If he stops hitting the ball out of the park, he’ll be useless offensively because he never walks and only hits for a decent average. Jones, for example, still drew more walks than Hairston this year (28-19) in 108 fewer plate appearances. Imagine second half Andruw without the walks, and that’s what you’re getting from Hairston when the bat speed starts to slip.

With Gomes signed and Reed Johnson slipping with age, the free agent outfield market is devoid of quality right-handed platoon bats. I’d love to think Brian Cashman & Co. could get Hairston to sign a one-year contract like they have so many veterans the last few years, but he’s been a fringe roster player for most of his career and he’s coming off the best season of his life, so I have to think he’ll look to parlay that into the biggest payday possible. Hairston makes a ton of sense for the Yankees, but he’s a risky (and limited) player who will command multiple years as a free agent.

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Season Review: Joe Girardi & Coaching Staff
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  • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

    Solely due to my sentimental attachment and gratitude for the work Jerry Jr did for the Yanks, I move to sign the little brother.

    • MannyGeee – $189M ain’t gonna cut it

      Agreed, you had me at Hairston. Also, I would sign anyone named Hinske or Marte…

      #2009willneverdie

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Brian Cashman checks this link daily:

        http://peopleaz.org/firstname/Small/10 (sfw)

      • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

        Not sure Marte. Remember the “We want Swisher” chants when he’d pitch early in 09? I couldn’t handle the lack of consistency. I’m all for Hinske though.

  • monkeypants

    The Yankees are looking to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014, so therefore any multi-year contract has to be viewed through the prism of average annual value and its impact on next year’s payroll limit.

    I’m not sure I agree with this, at least not entirely. Since the Yankees want to get under $189 million by 2014, what matters more is not the average annual value so much as the absolute value of the contract in 2014. In effect, the Yankees are operating within a budget where money is worth more in 2014 than it is in 2013. Therefore, they should consider (inasmuch as it is feasible) overpaying in 2013 in order to underpay in 2014. Why not, then, offer the same contract that Gomes got ($10 million for two years), but heavily front-loaded, e.g. $7 million in 2103 and $3 million in 2014?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      “Since the Yankees want to get under $189 million by 2014, what matters more is not the average annual value so much as the absolute value of the contract in 2014.”

      You’ve got that reversed. Otherwise, of course, what you’re saying would make perfect sense.

    • 0-Fur

      The Tax threshold for 2014 is based on AAV of the Contract. a 2 yr $10MM contract has an average salary of $5MM. Doesn’t matter it you pay him $9.5MM in the first year. It’s all about the average

      • jjyank

        Yes. I feel like this needs to be explained in every thread these days.

        • MannyGeee – $189M ain’t gonna cut it

          wait, what if, go with me here, its crazy… if in 2013 we pay him $4.75… AN HOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And backload the shit outta it in 2015!!!!!

          will that work?

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Don’t give the NFL any ideas.

          • jjyank

            Nah, that’s under the minimum wage, bro. Unless he is allowed to receive tips. So here is my proposal:

            The Yankees sign Scott Hairston to a contract that pays him $4.75 an hour….but after games, they bring out a pole, place it at home plate, and Hairston strips while members of the front office throw hundred dollar bills at him to make up the rest of his salary.

            Do tips count against the luxury tax?

            • Robinson Tilapia

              My music store employee self in about ’93 would like a word with you as to minimum wage.

              Scotty can feed the great Eduardo Nunez grapes in between innings for tips.

        • gc

          What about this?
          Macaroni…….let me finish…..salad.

      • Jedua

        I don’t know about this, but how about a third year club option with a 3 MM. Buyout?

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Two years, with an additional option year, to Scotty Hairston?

          • Jedua

            The option is to get him with a low AAV not for a third year (that will suck)

            • Robinson Tilapia

              I’m not sure I want to give a second year, though.

              • Jedua

                I’m a little iffy at best, but we do need someone who can at least defend himself againts LHP and Hairston could found other offers

                BTW my proposal sucks i know

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    His slash line of .263/.308/.464 (110 wRC+) against lefties over the last 3 years really isn’t all that impressive.

    It’s hard to believe this is the best that’s available. I’d be pretty reluctant to go more than 1 year.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’d be fine but somewhat ambivalent with not-Jerry-Jr., but I agree that a one-year deal is as far as I’d go.

    • Laz

      Yea especially considering that is his strength. Rather look into someone else than a weak platoon player.

  • http://Tab Aly

    Because, Monkeypants, the AAV, or average annual value of the contract is what counts toward the $189. So, the 7 and 3 would still come out to 5. We need separate one year contracts for each year. Too bad…

    • monkeypants

      Aha…didn’t realize that. Those clever MLB people!

  • theyankeewarrior

    Make a trade.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Get down tonight.

      • MannyGeee – $189M ain’t gonna cut it

        Do a little dance

        Make a little love

        Make a trade tonight!!

  • TrollHunter

    Hey Mike! Off topic here but I notcied Chone Figgins was cut lose yesterday and was wondering what you though about him as a possible super utility guy for the Yankees this season.

    • jjyank

      Not Mike, but Figgins has been terrible for like 3 years now.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I think the guy was totally trolling here.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I laughed.

      • TrollHunter

        I’m talking guy off the bench for 480k who was good once. Cash loves reclamation projects. Come on guys cut me some slack. :)

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Wait…..so you didn’t ask that to get a rise out of Mike because Mike seems to give his opinion on Chone about once a week?

          MiLB contract with invite to Spring Training, to me.

          • TrollHunter

            Sounds perfect! Exactly what I was thinking.

            • MannyGeee – $189M ain’t gonna cut it

              I would LOVE Chone Figgins at $480k. Ultimate ‘change of scenery’ candidate…

              That said, I would rather Hairston all day long

              • Laz

                But hairston isn’t all that great anyways, even without reclamation.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    He played for the Mets last year, pass. Anyone who has played for the Mets needs to have a year away from the Mets before the Yankees acquire him. It’s a decontamination period. The person needs to re-learn how to win before coming to the real NY team.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Once the 7 train goes past Queensboro Plaza, it’s usually all taken care of. At least that’s what Al Leiter told me.

    • Billion$Bullpen

      rofl

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    Mentioned it in other thread, but the 2 Cuban free agents could be Cashman’s chance to atone for Chapman, Cespedes, et al. Jeter can’t play SS forever and this guy could be next.

  • Pistol Pete

    Best of what’s left. Good power but a bad fielder (no arm) and poor plate discipline. As boring as this off season has been signing him would feel like getting Hamilton.